It may not have the glamour its trackside location could suggest, but Searcy’s Champagne Bar at St. Pancras Station is a cracking spot for some excellent seafood and some bubbly, of course.
You kind of want this long restaurant and bar to evoke an old black and white weepie, with lovers running the length of the platform, tearfully waving their handkerchiefs through the steam from a chugging locomotive. Still, this is modern day London and not ‘30s Hollywood, so there’s much less time for melodrama. Consequently this fine place running alongside the track from where the Eurostar departs feels contemporary, even if there are more than a few nods to the glory days of steam travel (not least the magnificent, original wrought iron lattice of the Barlow roof – it’s some canopy). There’s a deliciously art deco feel to much of the venue’s fixtures and fittings, including much of the impressive new design, introduced over the summer to make things just a little sleeker - and warmer too; the leather seating is now heated, and there’s even a blanket you can pull over your knees when it gets really cold – as it’s certainly wont to do come wintertime.
It does feel slightly exclusive, given that it’s separated from the hoi polloi down below, but there’s still something of the train station platform about it (though unless Searcy’s erect some walls - they’re not allowed - it’s always going to feel slightly less glamorous than perhaps it could). It’s certainly popular though, with those kicking off their trip to the Continent with something a little fancy, as well as those killing time or simply swatting away the end of a break as best they can. These Searcy's champagne bars seem to be pretty popular across London, and this one is certainly no different.
It’s seafood pretty much all the way (with a few cheeses and charcuterie on the side) on a menu that’s well geared toward all those bottles of bubbly. The quality and workmanship is certainly impressive, with precise hands treating some really very good produce very well indeed. The dressed Weymouth prawns (a posh prawn cocktail - £5.50) offers pretty sound proof, jazzed up by a bit of molecular work in the form of olive oil caviar; a bunch of tiny olive oil spheres that burst on bite in tandem with what are some very plump prawns. Potted crab (£6.50) is deep and rich, whilst its dressed brother (£12.50) is very generous, with loads of meat impeccably seasoned and given the perfect hit of acidity from a squeeze or two of lemon. The Portland lobster (£8.50) is sweet enough to not really need the (admittedly) light mayo, but if you really want to be impressed then the smoked salmon (from Inverlochy - £6.50 for a starter) is exquisite in its delicacy – a gentle smoking and freshness to the fish gives way to a very long finish. It’s really rather good. Charcuterie comes from Trealy Farm in Monmouthshire, and is therefore very good (a selection of three is generous at £5.50), and cheeses are obviously chosen with the champagne in mind: the Chaource and the Gran Padano both going particularly well with the more robust options.
Well it would be remiss not to sample at least one glass of champagne, but thankfully the ‘Tasting Trio’ (£16) offers a pretty good way to try a few (the Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut NV; the Bollinger Rosé NV; and the Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs NV). They might only be tasting-size flutes but it’s pretty good value, especially for drops this good. There’s a bit of a steep mark up on some of the other champagnes (a bottle of Veuve Clicquot comes in at £85, for example) but you can pick up plenty by the glass (from £8.95), or go for some of the very good English sparklers, including the very impressive Nyetimber Classic Cuvee ’04 at a not bad £80 (or £14.50 a glass). If you don’t fancy bubbles then there are a fair few whites, again chosen to work well with the seafood (the André Neveu Sancerre is particularly good - £38.75), as well as a few reds that might be a good bet if you’re tucking into the charcuterie.
The Last Word
It can’t quite escape the concourse completely but it’s still a fine spot, and the food (especially the seafood) and the champagne certainly do justice to the sense of history at this great and grand station.